by Zinzi Clemmons, Managing Editor; Photo (c) Independent UK
Last week, readers around the world observed a debate surrounding Nigerian writers and the biggest literary prize in Africa, and centering on one of the continent’s most prominent literary stars. On July 10, Boston Review posted an excellent interview with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on race, her great new novel Americanah, and many subjects in between. One part of the interview in particular caught attention for its mention of Africa’s prestigious literary honor, the recently-awarded Caine Prize for African Writing:
AB: I would love to ask you about the Caine Prize. I find it interesting that so many Nigerians are on the short list this year—that it’s four Nigerians out of five . . .
CA: Umm, why is that a problem? Watch it.
AB: Well, none of them are you!
CA: Elnathan was one of my boys in my workshop. But what’s all this over-privileging of the Caine Prize, anyway? I don’t want to talk about the Caine Prize, really. I suppose it’s a good thing, but for me it’s not the arbiter of the best fiction in Africa. It’s never been. I know that Chinelo is on the short list, too. But I haven’t even read the stories—I’m just not very interested. I don’t go the [sic] Caine Prize to look for the best in African fiction.
AB: Where do you go?
CA: I go to my mailbox, where my workshop people send me their stories. I could give you a list of ten—mostly in Nigeria—writers who I think are very good. They’re not on the Caine Prize short list.
Among those who picked up on her dismissal of the prize were some of its nominees. Elnathan John (referred to as “one of her boys”, a phrase that won a subset of criticism all its own) penned a series of frustrated tweets, and then a post on his blog that details his interactions with Adichie, from participating in her Farafina Creative Writing workshop in Lagos, to her increasingly sparse emails to him, to the interview in question. The entire string of events is summed up very well here. The most curt response (and that’s a generous description) came from fellow nominee Abubakar A. Ibrahim:
Read the rest of this entry »